This working paper forms part of MISTRA’s priority research project, Protest in South Africa: Rejection, reassertion, reclamation, that critically analyses the underpinnings of protest in South Africa and the variety of factors that generate protest action. The research aims to locate protest and civil unrest in a broader systemic context of rising inequalities and popular dissent globally, by understanding how political, socio-economic and environmental factors, identifiable in other international contexts, transitional societies and new democracies, manifest in ways that speak to South Africa’s own history, dynamics and lived realities, as well as to longer-term protest trends.

This chapter examines electricity contestations in Lamontville from the perspectives of self-connecting residents in the informal settlement, KwaMadlala, and those residents who access Eskom services in the formal area, Dizababa. It applies the idea of ‘infrastructural citizenship’ to these contestations to understand how electricity infrastructure is used in an attempt to shape residents’ behaviour into ‘appropriate’ forms. It shows how this is resisted, but also how it fragments in the sense that communities are divided according to their differential status with respect to infrastructure and their ‘behaviours’ towards infrastructure.